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10 Things You Need to Forgive Your Kids For

No one is perfect.  Every living person has a plurality of defects of character.  In order for people to live in harmony with one another, we must practice patience, tolerance, and forgiveness with one another.  This is especially true of families: these people groups typically spend a large amount of time together, thus increasing the opportunity for interpersonal friction.  Here are 10 of the most common things parents need to forgive their kids for and how parents can deal with these things more constructively, less punitively.

  • 1. Stubbornness. Stubbornness, while potentially irritating, has a positive facet to it: stubbornness is borne of your kids’ healthy development of a sense of self. You want your kids to develop an understanding of who they are and what they want. It is stubbornness that can help your kids resist peer pressure to do drugs, engage in pre-marital sex, etc. because they have decided that those activities are inconsistent with what they want for their lives. So, when your little ones are testing your patience with their unrelenting stubbornness, count to 10, try to reason with your stubborn child, and, if all else fails, walk away from the hot topic and come back to it when things have settled down.
  • 2. Impulsivity. Youngsters struggle with long-range thinking as they are very in-the-moment: this is normal for small children. You should speak with your kids about the dangers of impulsivity and talk with them about your flow of logic when you are exhibiting your own long-range thinking. Persevere: you will need to exhibit these behaviors consistently until your kids’ psychosocial development matures sufficiently for impulsivity to diminish. Additionally, you can also use your kids’ impulsivity as a reality check for your own behaviors. Are you falling into a rut, exhibiting the same behaviors over and over because you have created familiar habits or patterns of behavior? Does it take you a long time to make a decision or have you missed worthwhile opportunities due to prolonged analysis and therefore inaction on your part? Can your kids’ impulsivity teach you to stop and smell the roses (proverbially speaking) and jump at good opportunities with greater frequency or comfort?
  • 3. Clumsiness. Young kids are still developing their fine motor skills. Additionally, their in-the-moment enthusiasm may prevent them from seeing that gesturing wildly may knock your crystal goblet onto the ceramic tile floor. Boundaries should be established (i.e., do not touch anything . . . ANYTHING . . . in the china cabinet). Beyond that, if something gets chipped, bent, or broken, try to be forgiving. After all they are still developing their fine motor skills and learning to delay or deny impulses, both of which you have already mastered, yet you too can be clumsy.
  • 4. Messiness. Borne of #2 and #3 above, messiness can be a challenge in its own right. Did your daughter leave her peanut butter-laden knife on the kitchen counter (which now has peanut butter on it too)? Did your son accidentally tip your potted plant, thus leaving potting soil strewn on your family room carpet? Messiness under these circumstances should be address based on their causation (typically, either #2 or #3 above).
  • 5. Noisiness. Your kids can make all kinds of racket. Usually, this is caused by #2 above. In other words, your kids may be so excited by the inch worm crawling on the window ledge that they yell for their siblings to come look at the worm . . . even though you are clearly on the telephone near the window, trying to carry on a conversation over the excited din. Treat noisiness based on its causation (typically, #2 above).
  • 6. Disregard for the feelings of others. Young children often consider their own needs first and foremost. It’s not that these kids lack empathy; its that the feelings of others simply may not cross their minds unless or until something specifically prompts that (i.e., Johnny sees one of his friends cry because Johnny hurt his feelings). With coaching and parental modeling of healthy behaviors, most children can be taught to perceive (proactively) the interests of others and balance their interests with the interests of others. This is a normal part of child development.
  • 7. Shortness of attention span. (See #2 above.)
  • 8. Inattention to appearance. Your daughter wants to wear her black velvet Christmas dress to school today . . . with her purple tennis shoes. This is borne of her developing sense of self (see #1 above). Kids are not born with fashion sense, color coordination, or even an idea of what clothes are appropriate for what weather or context. These things must be taught . . . but balanced with respect for your kids’ growing sense of self. If the Christmas dress and tennis shoes is what she wants to wear to school, try to talk to her about why that’s not ideal. If she feels strongly that this outfit best expresses who she is on that day, then let her wear that combination. Simply smile and shrug when you drop her off at school and her teacher raises an eyebrow.
  • 9. Bluntness of speech. Did your toddler just ask your neighbor why he is bald? Yes, that is embarrassing. A prompt but low key apology from you is warranted. Then, in a private moment, you should educate your child on social boundaries (i.e., not bringing up issues that people may be sensitive about). Social boundaries are learned, not in-born.
  • 10. Autonomy. I know: you are thinking that autonomy is the goal . . . a good thing. Nobody wants a grown child still living at home and dependent on his/her parents for everything. But for many parents, kids’ growing autonomy is hurtful. Parents can experience this as their no longer being needed or even wanted. The truth, however, is that autonomy is, indeed, a good thing (within proper limits). It’s a necessary part of healthy child development. Parents need to acknowledge their wounded feelings but reason through them and let them go.

In the final analysis, no one is perfect.  As parents, we need to exhibit patience, tolerance, and forgiveness when our kids exhibit the traits above.  The primary reasons for this are: to teach kids about giving and receiving love (including forgiveness), to foster harmonious relationships, and to encourage self-confidence and a sense of personal security in kids.

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